PARIS, France—Unfamiliar with Paris Nord railway station I approached a group of men for directions. Gauging from their clothing the men didn’t look either like passengers or police, but they did look like authorities of some kind, who’d likely know where to direct me. One man, a hulking brute, stepped forward to reply: Do I look like I speak English? I said I have no idea but you’re speaking English now. Are you an American? Yes, why? This is France. We speak French here. Is it necessary to politicize this, I said. I just need directions. Please. “Alors…” He ordered me to follow him to the security area. For what? For speaking rudely to me. I was worried, since the other three guys were nodding in agreement. I asked them to identify themselves. They said they were customs agents. Oh, shit, I will definitely miss my train and worse; they’ll spend hours going through my suitcase and I’ll spend hours in a police station.
I thought of the British kid in Kenya, who police arrested for drug possession. Police allegedly beat him to death after he mouthed off a little too much. Deal with customs man as you would when face to face with a silverback gorilla. Don’t look him in the eye. Look down. Don’t talk back. Be the coquette. I told Mr customs man that he was absolutely right; I was a rude American and I was very sorry. I smiled, his eyes softened, and he let me go.
I was furious that this guy abused me by abusing his power. I was depressed that I allowed him to bully me into submission. But I caught my train. Viva la France
#abuseofpower #trainstations #paris #customs #parisnord #stpancras #trains